Weekly Devotional

Week 7

February 17, 2024

Remember in the year and a half when we were without a pastor and before Matt came? Seems like a bit of distant memory now, doesn’t it? For all those Sundays, we had guest speakers in…some from our church and a lot from outside out church. Synagogues in the time of Jesus pretty much did that all the time…had guest speakers who would do a main reading for them and then teach about the passage. Jesus did that a lot

Luke 4 records a significant event that concerned Jesus being the guest teacher at His own local synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth. Unlike today, when guest speakers usually have a lot of latitude on what they want to speak on, the synagogues had what was called a ‘lectionary’ (churches today that are highly liturgical such as Catholic and Orthodox have the same thing), where the Scripture passages are already scheduled out for a year and then repeated year after year. For Jesus, in this particular synagogue, on this particular Sabbath, the passage was from Isaiah 61:1-2. Amazingly enough, the passage was about the Messiah who was to come and what it is what He would do. He would preach the good news to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom to captives, bring sight to the blind, free those who were oppressed and proclaim the year of The Lord.

Jesus reads this passage and sits down. Traditionally the Scripture passage was read while standing up and then when it came for the exposition of it, the teacher would sit down to give it. Now all of these people knew Jesus and that He was the (adopted) son of Joseph. They had heard stories of wonderful and miraculous things that He had done in places like Capernaum. What would He say here? All eyes were on Him and there was much anticipation. If this was a TV show, they would cut to commercial at this point.

Jesus gives about the shortest sermon on record. He simply says that what He read has come true today right in their hearing. They know exactly what He meant by this…He was claiming to be the prophesied Messiah and much grumbling and talking occurs in the congregation…they are really unsure about this.

Jesus, knowing their thoughts, knows that they want proof…that they want Him to do a miracle right then and there to prove Himself to them. But He won’t do it…in fact He reminds them of twos other times in the Old Testament when God went out of His way to do miracles for those who were outside Israel, even though there were plenty of needy people in Israel at that time.

Of course this just gets the crowd into a frothy rage and they all stand up in the midst of this house of worship (thank God this never happened to any of OUR guest speakers) and drag Jesus out to the edge of a cliff and work on throwing Him over it. By the way, this particular cliff was not a tall one and would not have resulted in Jesus’s death. When preparing to stone someone for blasphemy, crowds would typically throw someone over a short cliff to injure them and get them ready to be fully stoned by a crowd…I think this is what is happening here.

But it is not Jesus’ time. In the midst of this horde of angry people, He simply walks through the crowd as if they were not there and goes on His way.

By the way, and this may be one of those things that only interests me/…in the previous story Luke tells about the temptation of Christ, one of the temptations is for Jesus to throw Himself over a cliff so that God’s angels could save Him. Jesus did not do it then and He does not allow the crowd to throw Him over now.

At this early stage of Jesus’ ministry, the response of the people of Nazareth to one of their own was unqualified rejection. The passage that Jesus spoke from was in Isaiah 61. The prophet also says in Isaiah 53:3, “He was despised and we esteemed Him not.” Even John in his gospel said in 1:11, “He was in the world and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own and His own people did not receive Him.”

People sometimes say that they accepted Jesus. But maybe in the final analysis, it is now we who accept Him, but He who accepts us. Maybe a better term we hear occasionally is ‘receiving’ Jesus. In our language, accepting is different than receiving. To accept is to tolerate/ To receive is to embrace.

The language of the New Testament is not of accepting but of embracing. IN fact, when the Bible speaks of believing in Christ, it means to welcome Him, to receive Him, to trust Him, embracing Him will all of one’s heart.

We say perhaps we did that when we came to faith. But will we do it every day? Embrace Him as our Lord and Savior every day?

February 17, 2024